Myths & Legends of the Polynesians

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Cory wrote on 3 August, - Permalink. Thank you for posting. Muman Anster wrote on 27 May, - Permalink. Interesting comment. Could you provide a source? Related Articles on Ancient-Origins. Many of us grew up watching Disney movies and their tales of fairy princesses and evil queens are undeniably a part of the modern zeitgeist.

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Ancient Places. The recent discovery of year-old ruins at Tintagel in south-west England has made headlines around the world. What appear to the be the walls of a Dark Age palace have been found in the exact It is recognized as an eligible Native American But even more fortunately, when Kalea leaves her husband, intending to return home, she only makes it as far as Kalamakua's home, because they loved each other from the start. Chapter IV, Uenuku , is not about love but about endless tribal wars.

It is a Maori legend and takes place after the time of Tawhaki. We really don't know much about him until Chapter VI, which is devoted to him and his family, who are descended from the gods. I have to say it is a quite confusing chapter, and the names of the people, throughout the whole book, are so similar that they are a constant point of confusion. This one begins with the wife of Uenuku, Taka-rita, who committed adultery with two men. Uenuku kills them all, then fed their son the cooked heart of his mother. Eventually, word gets to her relatives, who are enraged, and revenge between the two goes on and on and on.

One thing I want to point out with this book is that it has a very comprehensive glossary in the back, which contains not only people's names, but also native words and terms. This is extraordinarily helpful. One of the words that shows up all the time is karakia , which is an incantation, used to ensure help and success in all kinds of activities of these people. War was certainly a case where incantations were needed.

However, since both sides used them, it boiled down to whose was the strongest. I also want to point out that as the book progresses, it becomes less and less historical, and more mythical, with lots of magic, gods. With many of these, there are different versions for different islands, although most of the book focuses on New Zealand and Hawaii. Chapter V is about Fairies and Taniwha , which is a kind of monster.

Some are romances, where a being from the fairy world falls in love with a mortal, and they eventually must part. Chapter VI, as mentioned above, is called The Tawhaki Cycle , being about gods and mortals mixed, part romance and lots of revenge, over a number of generations. Chapter VII is entitled Maui' Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga and is perhaps more of a "typical" myth that we modern people may recognize, especially with ancient civilizations who found creative ways to answer questions about life. Maui' was a mischievous rascal, and Andersen points out that though we would perceive him as evil, to the ancients, he was just an adventurer that caused a lot of trouble.

He was a demigod whose mother, Taranga, gave birth to him prematurely while walking by the seashore. She "rolled up the unformed being in a wisp of her hair and cast it into the sea.

Myths and Legends of the Polynesians by Johannes C. Andersen

Eventually he returned to his family, and his mother was convinced he is her son. But she has her mysteries, too, and often leaves home in the middle of the night. Maui', determined to know, follows her to the Netherworld and there meets his father, too. Perhaps the most important contribution of Maui', according to the myth, is that he introduced fire to mortals, He also captured 'Ra, the Sun, and made him slow down his movement across the sky so their days would be longer.

The people thought that island was shaped like a fish, but I dunno about that. The Maui' story comes in many variations across the islands. Andersen believes it is a very ancient myth that the people knew while they still all lived together before venturing into the South Seas, perhaps somewhere in Indonesia.

So the Maui' myths originate before the Polynesians split apart into different peoples on different islands. This was one of my favorite chapters. The next chapter, Hina', Sister of Maui' is also a creation-type myth, and also comes in many different versions.

Captain Cook and the Gods

But the main theme is that she had an eel that she raised as a pet that eventually hurts her, so he tells her to cut off his head and bury it. From it sprouts the coconut tree. As with Maui', Hina' had many adventures, but introducing the coconut to the island people seems to be the most important. As in volcanoes, specifically Kilauea, which really struck a nerve, seeing what "she" is doing in Hawaii right here in the present.

She was not a nice deity, and her personality and passions were as fiery as her volcano. The Spirit Worlds is the longest chapter in the book, and covers a wide range of subjects. It includes stories about mortals who returned from the Netherworld when a loved one went to fetch them, kinda like Orpheus tried to do and failed. But the chapter also supplies songs that were sung for funeral ceremonies, discusses clothing and education, discusses language, and returns to more historical information, as at the beginning of the book, rather than just legends.

You know, if you look at all the primitive peoples from all over the world and collect their stories, there will be a great similarity, even where it is impossible that the people would have ever met. Andersen made the point of comparing these myths to Nordic legends.

I found an interesting couple a paragraphs that reminded me of a scene in Bram Stoker's The Mystery of the Sea where the ghosts were marching in procession. That took place in Scotland. This takes place in Hawaii:.

The Legend of Sina and the Eel

Another interesting point from this chapter is a drama about Ngaru entering the spirit world where he risks being eaten, but is saved by his father's lizards. The short drama is printed in the book, and Andersen compares it to the ancient mystery plays. And the actors are all women! Io, Tangaroa, and Creation is also one of the longer chapters, and it covers the different creation myths of several of the island groups. One thing I really admire about Andersen's writing is that he never speaks disrespectfully about the Pagan beliefs of these peoples. He never refers to them as savage, or anything derogatory, in fact he scoffs at other writers who attempt to connect them with Christianity.

Of course, they eventually were Christianized, but I won't even go there because my opinion of missionaries is that they should mind their own business and not assume their beliefs are right or better than others'. Every religion is a myth, you know, and certain beliefs tended to permeate all of humanity, no matter how separated by time or space they were. Here is a section of an interesting ancient Maori chant of creation:.

It reminds me of Genesis, which goes to show that the Judeo-Christian god wasn't the only one who called forth the Light. Nor was the idea of a trinity a Christian exclusive. Here is a fragment of another ancient chant. Ono, is "spirit. Andersen also compares this, again, with Nordic mythology, because of the sacred tree.

As the chapter progresses, it is obvious that Andersen believes these peoples had a keen sense of spiritual curiosity, in addition to being much more intelligent than most would imagine. Why do we think of ancient civilizations such as the Greeks or Egyptians as being so advanced for their time, and yet think of the Polynesians as being savages? They were not, and Europeans were probably more war-like that these basically gentle people.

The next chapter, Tane' and Rongo , continues with the creation theme, including the creation of humans. The Areoi Society and the Hula Dance is about an exclusive society in Tahiti in which members had to be accepted and go through initiations, which included the very painful process of being tattooed. These people would travel in huge groups to other islands to entertain and enlighten, as the medieval minstrels and actors in mystery and morality plays. That is what is depicted on the cover of this book above.

The society had a religious or spiritual base, and kind of reminds me of Masonic or other Western societies. The members did not have to remain celibate, but infanticide was practiced, and any child born of one of the members would be killed. There was another society called the Kaioa from the Marquesas Islands, but they did not have the respect that the Tahitian groups did. The hula was from Hawaii, and the performers were highly trained to tell their story with dance and movement. General collections that retell the Polynesian stories are also surveyed. The entries are alphabetically arranged by major mythological figure; lesser characters can be located in the index.

Short bibliographical citations--author, date, and page number--are included at the end of each main entry to direct readers to fuller information contained in the printed sources.

Moana and Polynesian Myths and Culture

An appendix provides valuable supplemental information on Polynesian gods and goddesses. This dictionary is sure to become a basic reference tool for libraries, students, and scholars of Pacific history and culture, as well as for courses in mythology, religion, and philosophy. Robert Craig has translated, authored, or edited several books and journals on Oceania. With the Dictionary, he has produced a scholarly work intended primarily for scholars and has filled a gap in the literature. Anthropologists, historians, mythologists, and other students of Pacific cultures will find this work well written, well documented, and worthwhile.

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